A look at demention five years later
|Just Answer the Question II
As I stated in the first installment of this article: (See Re1 "just Answer the Question) my mother-in-law has dementia and is most difficult to live with.
It is now five years later and we have recently celebrated her ninetieth birthday.
The dementia is deeper and communicating with her is more difficult every day. She is hearing impaired and refuses to go to an audiologist because he might tell her that she's deaf. Her vision is poor, but good enough for her to read.
So we post each day's date and important event on a dry erase board
She is returning to the glory days of her childhood and early adulthood.
Granny, her mother, and grand Dad, whom I never met spoiled her terribly and insisted, according to her two older sisters, Gladys and Edith, the the four older children also spoil little Elsie, letting her win every argument and every game.
Her husband, Calvin, also spoiled her.
She expects that her children, grandchildren and in-laws spoil her.
We don't, because she's perfectly capable of tending to herself.
Every morning she sits in he usual chair at the dining table and loudly announces, “Coffee! Is the coffee ready yet?”
Our response is “Get up an get it yourself ( which she can do.
Instead she grabs her walker which she needs only because of an infected toe (diabetes). The walker prevents her from banging that toe on obstacles.
We encourage her to use the walker when she first gets out of bed and when she's going out to the patio. Otherwise she really doesn't need it.
She grabs it, though, for sympathy.
We will usually get the first cup of the day for her. After that, she is expected to help herself.
Visitors are always quick to serve her and we allow that.
She never drinks a full cup of coffee, stopping midway and letting the rest grow cold.
Then she demands, “Coffee!”
If this demand isn't met quickly, she starts drumming the cup on the table and doesn't quit until someone refills the cup or takes it away.
She is not eating much these days, usually two bites of every meal. Then she announces, “I'm full! I can't eat no more!”
If there is no response, she pick up her plate and goes around the table saying, “ Do you want my food? I don't want it?”
No one ever wants to eat her leftover food. Someone, usually me, takes the offensive plate out of her hands and throws it away.
Then I get a lecture on wasting food.
I listen, more or less obediently, because I know this is a throwback to the days of her childhood when food was scarce.
She remembers the days when she was the spoiled darling of the family and wants to relive them.
When anyone enters the house she calls out,” Hug my neck, if it's someone she recognizes as family. And to everyone she yells, “Shake my hand!”
Some shake her hand quickly and move away be cause she squeezes way too tightly.
I no longer shake her hand, due to nerve damage in my hand which her hard squeezes aggravates.
The great-grand kids complain that she hugs them so tightly they can't breathe.
I think this an unconscious cry for human contact.
She wants to be included in every conversation but can no longer keep up with the ebb and flow of words.
When she demands, “What are you talking about?”
We give her a one word answer, which she probably will not remember. If she's unusually insistent on knowing the topic of the conversation someone will out out a magazine and say “Read!” or open the daily crossword in front of her and say, “Do your crossword.”
She can work the crosswords, a after a fashion. She puts any old word in the spaces,not necessarily the word required. But she thinks she is doing he puzzle and we let her think that.
A new wrinkle in this later dementia is flirting. Apparently from all the family stories, she was a popular flirt in high school. She has returned to that, flirting outrageously with the boyfriends of her great-granddaughters.
If the boy understands the situation he may return the flirt with a harmless wink or smile.
If not, he leaves as soon as he decently can.
One particular great-granddaughter had lost too many boyfriends this way and no longer brings her friends to Nana's house.
Sh has also started cussing whenever she doesn't get her way or simply wants to get a rise out of someone. Most of us in the family didn't know she even knew those words.
If the cussing is really offensive, Cody, the grandson who lives with her and takes care of her, points to Granny's picture on the wall and says, “Granny heard that.”
Elsie will put her hand to her mouth and giggle like a child caught in a misdemeanor.
Her words are not clear because she has no teeth. Her teeth were bad, so we had them pulled.
She seems to enjoy being toothless and hasn't complained about it.
We hesitate to put dentures on her because we're not sure that with the dementia whether she could put them in her mouth. We're also concerned that she might try to swallow the dentures.
Then there's the loss factor. Elsie looses everything unless Cody puts it up for her.
We no longer buy paper towels for her and limit her to one box of incontinence pads per month because she stuffs these things in the garbage disposal or in the toilet.
We have disengaged the garbage disposal, but the toilet is a necessity.
She prefers to talk to men for two reasons: as a true flirt, women mean nothing to her and she can hears men's voices more clearly than women's.
At this stage, dementia is a weary load the whole family has to bear.
Elsie knows only that she has memory problems. She doesn't know she has dementia because we've never told her. She so terribly afraid of Alzheimer's and nursing homes, that telling her she has dementia would be cruel.
She no longer goes to church because the daughter who once took her is too embarrassed at her mother's actions and ha refused to take her.
She misses church and will often say, “Is today Sunday” Are we going to church?”
I've offered to take her with me, but I go to a different denomination and she refuses to set foot in my church.
We just get through the days the best we can.
One blessing of these dementia days is that Elsie sleeps most of the time.